Simon Julian is the co-founder and managing director of Renti, an SaaS platform for property management in Australia and New Zealand.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m currently a co-founder of the largest community for finance professionals in Australia (Finance and Coffee), Renti (SaaS platform for Property management rolling out across New Zealand and Australia), Pipelabs, a Digital product development and ecommerce consultancy and a Board Member for Ackama in Australia.
In the past I’ve run the commercial partnerships for Lonely Planet, managed a couple of large Digital agencies and worked for Channel 7, Channel 10 and in other media businesses.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My work life is pretty busy given the different ventures that I am currently involved in and the differing roles that I have in those businesses, which means that a day in my life can be pretty different depending on the day!
That said, there are a number of things that are just givens in my days.
I normally jump out of bed (or fall out depending on how I’m feeling) at around 6.30am – I like quiet time in the morning for anything from growth and learning to playing video games, and this time is precious to me as it is generally mine alone.
Once the family is up, there is all the chaos of breakfasts and lunch-making and getting everyone out the door for school (a welcome change given we’ve just gone back in the last week or so!), a time I love because it also tends to be filled with chatting about the day and everyone’s plans.
And then to work. My first task for the day every day is looking at (and updating) my planning, which I make sure to do on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.
I’m definitely someone who likes a good task list and I enjoy the feeling of ticking off goals, so this part of the day is important to ensure that I’ve structured things for myself. I’m separately moving to spending specific days/times on different ventures at the moment, which helps with structure as well.
All of my teams have similar strategies for team management as far as daily and weekly stand-ups etc, so these generally happen in the mornings as well, helping to structure the days and setting goals for the teams as well – I like a good end of week meeting to discuss our achievements as well.
Once the work day is done I’m out walking the dog (normally with my daughter) and then helping with dinner etc. After that I generally build in an hour and a half for exercise and then spend time with the family catching up and hearing about each other’s days – that time is hugely important to me and helps keep me real.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’m very lucky to be in a position where I can work both remotely and in a flexible way, which fits the ways that I like to live and work, in that I enjoy being able to take time to have a walk around the park with the dog or ride the bike during the day if I am working on a problem that I need some space to solve.
As I said earlier, I’m finding that, particularly in COVID times, I’m waking up earlier and spending time in the morning on either work or play depending on the day, doing this means having a more flexible schedule later in the day, which I enjoy.
All of the businesses that I am involved with have very clear work from home strategies and, being digital businesses, can support these strategies across the teams.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I think that work-life balance should be about giving all of the things that you love the time to grow and thrive – which makes it a very hard thing to achieve in practice and something I need to continuously work at.
Talking to that balance, I’m definitely someone who has dealt with a lack of balance in the past and I’ve paid the price for it. I went through a period years ago, when I was running a large digital agency, where I was really pushing the boundaries of what my mind and body could handle on a regular basis.
I’ve always had a lot of energy and when I am passionate about something I’ll put a huge amount of time into it. In this case to the point where I gave myself adrenal exhaustion and then Hashimoto’s disease (which is an underactive thyroid).
Saying that was a wake-up call would be understating it – in the period after being diagnosed I really started to question the way that I spend my time and the things that I saw as important (and what I had been okay to de-prioritise in pushing myself harder at work).
Since that point, I’ve been much more thoughtful as far as how my time is split and used and where I place it, given what an important resource time really is for us. Having time to spend and enjoy with the people I love, for exercise, for learning and growth and (importantly), for doing things for myself is far more important to me now and setting boundaries for myself is a daily exercise in making sure that I am spending time on the right things.
One thing that I make sure I do now is setting aside time for growth and learning – these are definitely things that fall off the radar easily as life gets busy with other things and it really does make life much more enjoyable when you’re growth-focused in this way.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Not really in the past 12 months as I had made a fair number of changes to life a few years ago, however I’m definitely much more focused on daily exercise than I used to be.
I’ve really found that a focus on both getting outside for a walk and also on making sure I’m doing a good daily exercise session makes a huge difference in my overall mental well-being – I’m happier, healthier and more able to manage my days when I’m exercising daily.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I really love a good podcast. I’m a regular listener of The Argument, which is all politics and social issues, Getting Curious which is by Jonathan Van Ness (great interviews!) and series like WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Is coffee a product? If yes, then that – I like to think that I’m not a coffee snob but I do love a good one!
My phone is the blessing and curse of my life, it helps in a myriad of ways to keep me on track, ensure I know what I am supposed to be doing, take audio notes from meetings and a bunch of other app-related things.
Audible is an app I can’t do without. That said, sometimes I wish the phone wasn’t so useful as I try to be off it in the evenings now – night mode and airplane mode are both more useful than you think when you start using them properly.
Separately to that, currently not being able to get to the gym my home weights set and exercise bike are definitely things I can’t live without, my bike is a big one on that front as well!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Really curious about the work-life balance of someone leading a hugely different life to me, someone like the Dalai Lama would be a great example.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve always been much more focused on quality of output than on hours worked, for both myself and my teams and workplaces. That fits well with a more and more remote work focused world and also with the way I think work (and life) should be.
Planning and prioritising is important in that worldview and the importance of being able to tick off both work and personal goals during your day is hugely important for the sense of achievement it offers.
Separately to that, I’m still learning over time to be grateful for the things that I have and to acknowledge the things that I achieve – life is a marathon, so it’s important to remember and acknowledge the milestones that you hit along the way – if you’re a driven person like me you need to stop and take stock once in a while so you remember the good things you’ve done.
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